Networking can be an overwhelming experience — especially for introverts — but the potential to make the right connections to accelerate your career is invaluable. It’s a misconception that introverts have a hard time meeting new people, just like it’s a misconception that extroverts naturally charm everyone they meet.
This is why networking is more of a skill than a personality trait — and anyone, no matter the personality type, can master it. Whereas those who are shy may not walk up to just anyone and start talking, those who are outgoing may become lost in conversations without making a lasting impression. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in between, here are three ways to enhance your networking skills.
The cost of conferences and other events can be a major barrier — causing you to miss out on wonderful opportunities to market yourself and learn more about a specific industry. One way to sidestep costs and get right in the mix of things is to volunteer at these events. Try this — on Evenbrite you can message the organizer of the event you want to attend. If your event of interest isn’t on Eventbrite, chances are there is a way to contact the organizer via their company website. Send them a brief email stating your interest in their event and what you can add to a volunteer team. Think of it like a mini job application. Even small events need extra hands. Volunteering takes the guesswork out of how to approach people and what to talk about. The most coveted position is the registration table. This position gives you access to EVERYONE. You will learn names faster and have a touchpoint when you run into people later.
One great example of a conference that relies on volunteers is Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP) in San Francisco. It’s a large scale conference that has drawn over 10,000 attendees in past years. The conference centers around entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, investors and grassroots activists. It costs $1,495 to attend the conference, but they offer a limited number of spots for volunteers who pay $200. This is refundable if you complete over a certain number of volunteer hours. There is an application process, but If selected, you have access to all panels and attendees when you aren’t working.
Get Social Media Savvy
Networking is no longer an “in-person” game. Connections are made every day through social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn which then move offline. However, no one likes a cold outreach. Thanks to the re-popularization of forums, you can join online groups that enable you to have a wider reach than going to in-person events alone. Being a part of an online community takes some of the anxiety out of meeting new people. Once again, you have a springboard to interaction and chances are, you will likely meet these same people at events around your city.
Establishing relationships with people in your online community will help you get more connected and be a connector for others. You can find like-minded individuals via Slack, Meetup.com or Facebook. For some groups, you have to be invited while others are open to anyone. You should update your social media accounts so that they reflect you and your personal brand in a positive way. Groups are also a great way to find work if you are a freelancer or need to solicit free advice from industry professionals.
Do It Yourself
Networking isn’t just about what you can get. What you can give is just as important. Why not consider starting some networking events of your own? If you are seeking to expand your current network, start by tapping into the people closest to you. The idea of throwing an event may seem daunting, so don’t over think it. If you have a large social circle to begin with, then consider partnering with someone in order to throw a medium-sized event. Entrepreneur Magazine posted an article outlining how to throw a kick-ass networking event. Don’t feel pressured to throw a party if event planning isn’t your thing. Something as simple as a standing brunch can be equally impactful. If you tell five friends to bring three friends then that’s fifteen people who can talk and get to know each other. A standing brunch allows you to rotate attendees, so not only will you have access to more people, you are enhancing the reach of others as well.